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From the Press Box: Interview With Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio (pt 2)

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From the Press Box: Interview With Matt Waldman of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio (pt 2)

Last week I posted part one of my interview with Matt Waldman, fellow Footballguy and, more importantly, writer of the Rookie Scouting Portfolio.

You can find part one of the interview here, where we covered quarterbacks and running backs, as well as some background into Waldman's process and the Rookie Scouting Portfolio itself.

This week we move onto wide receivers and tight ends to wrap things up.

14) Moving on to wide receivers: Cordarrelle Patterson is really raw, but looks insanely talented. How much patience do you think NFL (and fantasy) owners are going to have to show for a guy with just a year of top end NCAA football under his belt?

Patterson is the wildcard of this draft and I’ll be writing more about him this week at Football Outsiders. Patience is important with any rookie, but “fit” may be even more important with Patterson compared to other players.

I don’t believe the issues Patterson has stems from his college production or how many years he faced a stiff level of competition. It’s about refining both the physical techniques and mental side of the wide receiver position, which really isn’t different from most wide receiver prospects entering the NFL.

The uncommon factor with Patterson is that his physical talent was good enough at the college level that he could often run routes with poor technique and still get open in situations where his peers couldn’t do the same. Combine this lack of technical skill with untimely drops and the lack of resume bullet points that you mentioned in your question, and Patterson has the physical skills of a top-10 prospect but everything else screams fourth-round pick.

Here’s the thing with Patterson: If he can be the exception to the rule and get consistent separation from NFL defenders with bad technique and correct his lapses of concentration where he’s looking to run before he secures the football, Patterson will be worth a top-five selection in any rookie draft for fantasy owners. He’ll also have a chance to make an early impact in 2013 as a receiver.

If you play fantasy football, he’s going to be among the first 5-7 picks. I’d only pick Patterson there if I had multiple first-round picks or I had a strong team that traded into that early first-round spot. Regardless of your interest in fantasy football, Patterson will need a team that can allow the rookie play to his strengths while providing him the leadership and support to work at becoming a better all-around receiver.

I’d say we’ll know by the end of Patterson’s second year whether he’s making strides.

15) I was really happy to see Texas A&M WR Ryan Swope on your 'Underrated' section—I fell in love with him at the Senior Bowl, myself. Do you think his success will largely be scheme dependent or do you think he's one of those late round guys who steps right in and becomes a QBs best YAC friend?

I believe Swope is worth a pick in the third or fourth round and wouldn’t be surprised if he went that high in other drafts, but the depth of this class may depress his value. He is not a scheme-dependent receiver. Physically, he’s similar in size to Hines Ward and fast enough to play outside if needed.

One of the best aspects of Swope’s game is finding openings against zone coverage and working with his quarterback when the play breaks down. He’s a fit with any team that needs a wide receiver that can play outside, the slot, or even use occasionally in the backfield as smaller H-back.

16) As you say in the guide, it's far too early to judge Denard Robinson. One thing which has been a concern with him is the lingering nerve damage in his arm which, in my opinion, really has hampered him showing off whether he can actually catch the ball. IS this something teams should be worried about or, given he's a late round prospect anyway, it's not a huge concern?

From the perspective of making an investment, I agree with you that he’s a late-round pick at best. So the injury and limited timeframe Robinson had to show he could catch the ball – he did better at the Combine – could mean the difference between the Michigan star getting drafted late and signing as an undrafted free agent.

I think it would be best for Robinson to go undrafted and have his choice of team because of the amount of work he’ll need as a route runner and pass catcher. Even if he demonstrates good hands once all concerns with the arm injury are gone, he still has to integrate the concepts of route running with catching the ball and then doing it in tight coverage and against physical play.

It’s a tall order to get up to speed that fast and if Robinson is a UDFA he’ll have a better chance to pick a spot where a team could be more patient with his development.

17) Finally, tight ends. Today's NFL uses tight ends to catch the ball more than block—though doing both is certainly a plus. When it comes to evaluating a player, does the ability to be a very good pass catcher and receiver outweigh issues blocking, or would you rather have a decent receiver who is a reliable blocker?

I’d rather have an all-around player. In fantasy football, you might say that it’s six of one; one-half dozen of the other when weighing Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham when both healthy. In real football, it’s Gronkowski, no contest.

In football, you always want a player who can do everything traditionally asked of the position. While I think there are offensive schemes that allow some tight ends to be more of a receiver and less of blocker, I’m not evaluating for a specific team. Therefore I have to account for all possible roles and at the same time project what type of fit team fit is best for the individual prospect.

Although I evaluate players in great depth, my rankings are geared towards fantasy football and that means receiving skills will have a heavier weight. Yet, I tend to note how much higher I think a prospect would be in my rankings in a non-fantasy weighted ranking.

18) You really don't seem to love Stanford's Zach Ertz, or at least feel he's very scheme dependent. What are a few teams you think would be the best fit for him, and make him worth grabbing in fantasy leagues?

I am not a fan of Ertz’s game. I think he can have a role with an NFL team, but it will be as a tight end standing up and split away from the line of scrimmage or on the wing of two tight end sets where his blocking will be minimal.

His best fit would be with a team that wants to use 12 personnel sets and already has tight end with an all-around game – think Tony Scheffler paired with Brandon Pettigrew (if you’re a fantasy owner that pairing doesn’t sound that exciting does it?). Since a 12 personnel set is difficult for defenses to defend, this is why I think Ertz could have some use if the team’s first tight end is a superb player.

Teams that would be a good fit for Ertz already have two good tight ends: Detroit, Tennessee, Indianapolis, and New England. I think San Francisco is an obvious thought due to a reunion with Harbaugh and Delanie Walker now in Tennessee, but I think it’s a downgrade in talent if they add Ertz.

19) Cincinnati Travis Kelce is atop your tight end rankings and you say he reminds you a bit of guys like Jason Witten and Rob Gronkowski. In a league where tight ends have suddenly become a huge factor in game strategy, how would you utilize Kelce in order to wrest the most out of him?

I’d love to see him in Washington as an H-Back in that Pistol scheme. Kelce has experience with this scheme in Cincinnati and I think the Redskins need another big-time weapon in its receiving corps because of Fred Davis’ Achilles’ injury, Pierre Garcon’s foot, and Santana Moss’ age.

However, Kelce is one of the best blocking tight ends in this class so he can be traditional in-line tight end. He’ll fit with any team and be a nice weapon. Arizona could use an upgrade at eight end because Rob Housler isn’t much of a blocker, Todd Heap is older and often injured, and they could use an every-down weapon at the position.

20) Last question—not long ago your analysis of Bilal Powell forced me to go back and look his tape over again—much to my joy, since he ended up as a Jet and I still believe can be a very vital piece of that offense (assuming they put an offense together). When they read over this year's edition of the RSP, who is the one guy readers will come away with the desire to take a second, closer look at?

Spencer Ware of LSU. He’s a 5’10”, 222-pound back with a style that fits within the spectrum of Marion Barber and Marshawn Lynch. He’s a quick back with excellent pad level and skill to finish runs with yards after contact.

LSU doesn’t utilize its talent in a way where one skill player has a chance to have dominant production. Ware looked like a better back than Stevan Ridley when they were playing together in Baton Rouge, but once Ridley left it was the same committee approach.

What many people didn’t see from Ware at LSU was pass-receiving, but he was a wide receiver in high school. On the few occasions the Tigers used Ware in this capacity he demonstrated excellent body control, skill to make plays in tight coverage, and reliable hands.

I think Ware will be an excellent backup right away and challenge for a lead role in a committee before the end of his third year.

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